The expat community in Belgium never ceases to amaze me with its creativity. Today I am pleased to present one such creative endeavour. American expat, Kimberley Lovato, has just launched her first book, Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves. This book is about two subjects that are very close to my heart – food and southwest France.
Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne is part travel book, part cookbook and part photo essay. Kimberley visited wineries, markets and farms and interviewed local cooks and chefs in her exploration of the markets and menus of the Dordogne region. Her stories are combined with regional recipes by Laura Schmalhorst and photographs by Louis Lesko.
Kimberley kindly let me interview her about her new book and her expat life here in Brussels.How did the book come about?
I was sent on assignment to the Dordogne to cover a story about a chef in Tampa, Laura Schmalhorst, and her newly launched culinary tour company Vagabond Gourmet,that would lead foodies through the Dordogne. I knocked on a 500-year-old priory door in the region, met Laura, and was instantly taken by her passion for food and her desire to introduce her clients to local producers and artisans, take them to the local markets, and generally help them understand where food comes from and the personalities behind it. The idea of the book came from there.
Why did you choose the Dordogne?
The Dordogne was an area where Laura had spent a lot of time so she knew a lot of people. But as we spend more time there together, we also began to fall in love with the region, not only because of its beauty and its people, but also because of its culinary prowess. It is the home to duck, foie gras, truffles, walnuts and many other gustatory gems that encrust France’s culinary crown. There are not many books written about the Dordogne either, so our idea to create a travel guide with a thread of culinary curiosity was fixed on the Dordogne from the beginning.
What was your favourite moment in writing this book?
Gosh, it’s hard to pick one. I smile at each memory. Definitely spending time with the people of the Dordogne, sitting in their homes, looking at their pictures, sharing their recipes and family tables is the highlight. Each of the people we met intrigued us in one way or another, and we were drawn to their stories and lives. We are grateful they let us spend time with them, and in doing so, document the meetings, the recipes, the stories, and share them with readers in our book.
What was the most challenging part of writing the book?
The most challenging part was not the writing at all, but the business side of publishing. It’s not as easy as one might think. (Chuckle). I’m kidding. It’s hard to publish a book and the lowest point was when our first publisher went bankrupt and we were back on the street again peddling the title. That was the most challenging part for me. Luckily Perseus Books came along 6-months later and, though cliche to say, it was a blessing in disguise. The added time and development made Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves a better book today.
Do you have any plans for future books?
I’d love to write a similar book about another region of France, or maybe even Belgium since we have such great cuisine here, influenced by the borders it shares and its past conquerors. No definitive plans yet though. I am just happy to have this one on the shelf for the moment.
How long and where have you been an expat?
I have been an expat in Brussels for 6 years now. Time flies.
How do you think your expat experience has influenced your life?
Living abroad has been the best experience of my life in so many ways. I have learned to appreciate other cultures, languages, lifestyles, etc while also growing more of an appreciate for my own background. It’s been great for my family and has brought us closer as we ride the adventure together. As someone who loves to travel, living in Europe has been logistically ideal, and for my daughter, I can think of no better gift to give her than a worldly perspective on things.
If you could live anywhere where would that be?
I’d stay right here in Brussels for the moment.
What advice would you give new expats or people considering becoming expats?
Dive in and experience real life. Learn a language, taste the local cuisine, meet locals. Don’t compare things to ‘home’ but rather embrace the new and different. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to live abroad. You can always move back, but you may never get a chance to live this experience again. Go for it!
Kimberley Lovato is a freelance writer and author based in Brussels, Belgium. Her travel and lifestyle articles have appeared in various print and online media in Europe and the U.S. and her culinary travel book about the Dordogne region of France, Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne was released by Running Press.
Looking for more resources for expats living abroad? Check out our Expat Resources page.